Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Peter Graves!

I grew up idolizing three super-spies: James Bond, John Steed, and Jim Phelps. I later came to appreciate Napoleon & Ilya and Jim West, too, but they all were not part of my initial interest. I was only about eight years old when I saw my first 007 movie and my first episodes of THE AVENGERS and MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE. I was immediately hooked on all three. Of these, I've had the most "fun" being a fan of MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, which we fans refer to as, simply, "MISSION."

MISSION started in 1966, but the lead at that time was Steven Hill as Dan Briggs. Peter Graves joined the cast in the show's second season; he stayed until it was cancelled in 1973. He then returned as Jim Phelps in the 1988-1990 version. To many, his premature gray hair and rugged good looks became the symbol of the show. This was probably also due in part to the fact that most of the other lead cast members left; first Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, then some guy named Leonard Nimoy. Peter Graves represented stability as well as security with his go-to support guys, Greg Morris and Peter Lupus.

At the time of MISSION Graves was a well-known and dependable actor. He had his big break in 1953 when he appeared in the motion-picture  STALAG 17,  directed by Billy Wilder. This is the WWII prisoner-of-war camp movie that features William Holden in his Academy Award-winning role as an anti-hero. Several years later Paramount Pictures sued Bing Crosby Productions for their HOGAN'S HEROES; the suit was settled out of court. If you haven't see STALAG 17 and you are a fan of Peter Graves, you owe it to yourself to see it. Peter Graves is wonderful in it.

A few years later Graves starred in the syndicated TV show FURY(1955-1960), about a boy and his horse. This was in re-runs for years, because I remember watching it as a kid in the '70s. It's kind of like LASSIE except with a horse instead of a collie. It's a lot of fun.

Besides MISSION, Peter Graves is probably most famous for appearing in the motion picture AIRPLANE! (1980). I'm sure you remember him as the pedophiliac pilot, Capt. Clarence Over.

One of the reasons I did not get into the Tom Cruise "Mission Impossible" movies is because of what happened in the first. Jon Voight played some character named Jim Phelps, but it was not the "real" character. I hated how Paramount et al did that, so I never saw any of the other sequels.

Peter Graves was born on March 18, 1926. He died on March 14, 2010, a few days before his 84th birthday.
Happy Birthday, Peter Graves!
Rest in Peace 
The producers insisted on NO COLOR during
the "briefing" scenes: only blacks, whites,
and grays were ever worn. 
With William Holden (left) in STALAG 17. 

The best ensemble M:I ever had, 1967-1969
At the 2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards Show with
former co-star Barbara Bain

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